Monday, October 26, 2009

The Unmentionable, Part IV

Of the great Doctor Martin Hesselius’ awful victory over the Comte, much has been written, an adventure so terrible, he had sworn it to be his last. The great doctor, however, never disclosed all the details of what he had found in the Comte’s castle, nor why, the Comte and his associates already vanquished, he felt it necessary to dynamite the bridges, the crypts and the charming old mill downstream, not even to my master that night. The authorities had agreed to ban all access to the region. Already a remote and ill place, traffic, human and animal, needed little discouragement. For this reason also, the authorities had not perhaps followed through on all of Hesselius detailed prescriptions for the complete effacement of the structure, a possibility on which our endeavor depended.

Hesselius, I believe, was true to his oath and his prescription. He did not show my master what he asked to see. Hesselius’ own despair and proscription of going there was all the proof my master needed. The good doctor all but forbid us to go, but knowing my master well, resigned himself to our adventure. Before we left, he favored me with a brief interview as to my intentions, complimenting me on the service I had given Doctor Brown. We discussed Socrates and Plato. “The great students,” said Hesselius, “only follow so far. And none ever save their master from errors.” On departing, he was most kind and enormously generous to us, though, I thought, informed with some solemnity and misgivings.

Nothing marked the boundary to the keep and its surroundings except absences; absences of habitation and traffic and upkeep on an increasingly difficult and vanishing road. The Comte’s ruins were deposited upon a seat of natural hostility and treachery, vertiginous paths prone to simultaneous avalanche and flooding, ridden with fissures and caves that could not be mapped or exited, well supplied with poisonous subterranean muddy springs, natural foul chthonic miasmas and reservoirs of tar. My master expressed some anxiety when it was clear we would have to leave the majority of the collection secreted in such a chasm. It was clear to me, however, that no one came to bother this lonely place, and my master’s treasures would be secure enough. It perplexed me that he had not left his storehouse of knowledge securely with Hesselius, but over his creation my master could be jealous and peevish, to the point of insisting on taking some of his most prized possessions with him, even as we had yet to cross the ravine whose bridge Hesselius has annihilated.

Once we stood there, I felt no overwhelming dread in the great hall, despite its infamy. I knew the most awful things had happened elsewhere. Stripped, it was still regal and the eyes still leapt to the torn and chipped spaces where they pennants and heraldry should be. Those arms should never be seen again, on that there was universal agreement. Surprisingly, much had been left untouched, including such items as usually attract the pilfering soldier or municipal authority. Here and there, it seemed items had been collected for removal, but their collectors had somehow thought better of it. The treatment of the castle seemed to imply a strange deference and haste upon the soldiers that Muinswerke had sent Hesselius.

On a landing, I poked about a piece of cloth and found a water tin and a stick. Perhaps the castle had had at least one tenant since the Comte. I hastened to tell my master, but he had no interest in the structure above ground, but rather raced it its foundations.

There, in the darkness of the cellar, my master would have his moment of truth. As Hesselius had described, the casks were overturned and split. The cellar was ancient indeed. The air was foul and faintly redolent, but I was used to such strong odors from our work. We found the doors of the secret chapel, as described. My master rapped upon the doors. It was mute. My master rapped harder. The doors absorbed all. We pulled the doors apart. We faced a wall of sandy soil and rock. As Hesselius had directed, it had been filled in.

My master stared at it a while. I was afraid to speak. He called for a shovel. I gave it to him. He began to dig. As I could not let him dig alone, I too, dug. I could not persuade him by any means to let me do the digging alone.

For the first hour or so, I thought surely he would relent and realize his folly with every shovelful. Yet he persisted. For the next two hours I considered what to say to him. By the fifth hour, I hoped he would fall asleep, so I could stop digging. Yet he never stopped or paused from digging , and so we persisted, incessantly, interminably. The air was quite stale and I grew dizzy, my limbs numb with exertion. I felt as though I were falling asleep, dreaming, the shovels cutting and dumping with the regularity of weary breath, a tiresome aching dream of attacking an endless black wall.

Finally, I know not how much later, the shovel nearly flew out of my blistered hands –into a void. My shovel had struck black, empty air, from which emerged a breath of strong foulness.

Hesselius’ instructions had been incompletely followed. Perhaps even Hesselius himself did not wish the way forever blocked. My master did not wait for the passage to be fully cleared but squeezed himself through.

I followed as soon as could.. Groping along the ground, my hands slid on fine cloths and knocked against shoes. We stood in the unholy antechamber, where the initiates disrobed before proceeding past the threshold to greater obscenity. The entrance to that lay before us.

The temple was as monstrous as Hesselius had been silent. I was glad our feeble torches could not show more of what remained in that place. I did my best to keep my light off the thing in the center of that star shaped chamber. I turned instead to face the walls. The weak sun of my beam fell upon a horrific creation: the acute walls of that awful place were decorated with murals of a perverse and blasphemous cosmology. The dark and grotesque figures were hard to discern as to their evil meaning. An ancient colossus, himself made of muck, it seemed to me, voided himself, producing the gods, who he then ingested, only to void them out again, who in turn slew and devoured the titan and evacuated him. The gods then proceeded to endlessly slay and devour each other, their eventual externalizations of their cannibalisms depicted in great detail. The products of their digestion in turn became infants composed of filth, who in turn, struggled and fought and devoured and excreted. In one corner, one such child, afflicted with idiocy, plays with his wastes, rolling out the arms and legs and of some infinitely inferior creation of degenerate discharge. The identity of this first golem of excreta I inferred was Adam.

Worst of all, however, the crapulent race of men, their idiot creator, the gods and the titans all knelt and bowed and scraped before the rising of a black sun, a dark asterisk, whose radial arms were brown streaks, whose visage was a faceless gaping concavity from which endless filthy issue poured forth: and this disjecta was the universe.

My master was uninterested in such details. He was looking for the restroom. At length he found it.

The latrine was the true secret temple of the Comte’s baphomet. This odious chamber was the size of a banquet hall and used in the Comte’s scatological orgies. Around its circumference were ringed toilets. Each seat was ringed with the pattern of a constellation set in precious gems. The Comte’s blasphemous company would seat themselves on these commodes, decorated as the seat of heaven and together fancy themselves so relieving their abdomens upon the upturned and innocent eyes of God’s creation, depicted in the sunken center of the room.

It was to these ancient seats Dr. Brown directed his attention, poking his head in this hole and that hallooing. He bade me also to do so. Though surely unused since the eviction of its bad tenant, the gaping mouth of the seat seemed newly rancid. With some reluctance, I placed my head through that orifice and felt the yoke of the seat around my neck. With some surprise I heard my master’s voice and saw his light before me, his head also inverted through another seat. He told me to get the picks and axes. I righted myself and did as he asked. He then began to tear at the seats with the picks and axes, and then thrust himself and his light into the opening he had made. Excited, he stood and bade me take his place.

The jeweled seats voided upon a still more ancient chamber: an ancient crypt or catacomb. It seems it had been the Comte’s blasphemous delectation to defecate upon his very ancestors with his guests. The obscene evacuation hall we were in formed the ceiling of the old crypt, into which we now lowered a line, hoping to descend upon the pinnacle of the fantastically enormous pile of coprolite and desiccated manure that bluntly peaked beneath us.

It was a tricky descent, as the accumulated waste formed a soft and immaterial layer on top, which was prone to break off in great clouds of dust. We both skidded and fell on our descent many times, soon totally covered with the powder of broken coprolite. Though the great mass of waste appeared dead and dry ejecta, paradoxically, the rank and evil smell of inhuman evacuations grew stronger and stronger the more we descended. As we made our unsteady way down this mountain of ancient filth, it became clear that it was not merely the refuse of the Comte’s orgiastic guests, but the refuse of ages that was accumulated here. The crypts themselves had been built upon the remains of some still more ancient midden.

Even in such a mass of sedimented impurity there were things still more awful. The Comte’s crimes were limitless and every vile thing he and his ilk had done had found its final issue here. The filth of an evil creature is unimaginably even viler and in that mass of crapulence there was evidence of crimes more terrible than even the Comte had been condemned for. It would do the world no good at all and not a little evil to detail them; I will suffice with a single detail, with some salience: before we had reached the base of the midden, we found some human remains. These were by no means the only human remainders (and things we hoped were human) we had encountered on our descent, but this body was notable for it condition: the legs has been severed at the knee, the left arm at the elbow; all the fingers of the right hand had been removed, save the ring finger. The seal on that remaining finger made manifest the corpse’s identity. It was the Comte’s father. By the location of the body and its condition, it was obvious that he had lived for some time after being cast down into this fetid pit, the conditions of his survival best not imagined.

Once we stood at its base, we exulted, as though we as reached the summit of the Mount Olympus itself. I felt giddy and lightheaded, as though so deprived of atmosphere. This unreal mass of crime and excrement transfixed my master. He walked around and around the base of the midden. This was the treasure beyond treasure. He did not even think to stop and scoop the specimens for which he had come. As he walked the base of the mass, over and over, seemingly dizzy as a drunkard, I began to wonder if he did not consider somehow collecting the whole thing.

His reveries were distracted by something wholly anomalous in that anomalous place. Something flew by my master’s face, illuminated by the beam of his torch. I, too, started. It was white. Our searching lights finally managed to intersect it again. It was white. It was no living creature, but some sort of cloth, paper or tissue caught in a draught. We became aware, at once, of a slight and capricious breeze that drove the scrap this way and that, like a willful thing, or puckish spirit. My master stumbled about trying to follow it, even running after it. I thought us quite mad until I realized that it was being animated by a steady current of air.

But the air was not fresh, far from it. It carried with it an increased tang of corruption.

The scrap flickered in and out of view. It seemed that the catacombs opened onto or had been built into some still older system of a natural caves and fissures whose origin lay in prehistory. We followed after the scrap, quite recklessly, I realized, as we had left no marker or means to find our way back. We turned this way and that in some unknown system. The scrap would vanish from view and we would fruitlessly struggle to find it again, only for it to whisk right by us.

Many times during this strange chase I moved to consult with my master. I even placed my hand on his shoulder, only to have him pull away, chasing the scrap.

As we proceeded deeper and deeper into these caves, the breeze and the caprice of our scrap did indeed grow stronger, as did the diseased feculent smell of ordure, stronger and stronger, until I expressed my concern that we must be heading into pocket of pure methane. Still my master persisted. I could not let him wander alone in such peril. I followed. God help me, I did follow.

I do not know how much farther we were able to track the scrap. The smell became overwhelming and unmistakable. It was difficult to breathe and one’s eyes burned. My throat and nose were raw: I should have supposed we had wandered into the sewer of some enormous city of lepers with diarrhea. Every breath inhaled filth. The air around us grew distinctly warm.

Our torches were nearly gone. Soon, we would be groping in the dark, the warm rancid darkness. Finally, my master fell to his knees. I fell too, exhausted. My master snapped off his light and sat in the dark. I did the same. My mind boggled at our misadventure and our certain doom and the man I had given my life for, to share in his great understanding. My feelings were extremely conflicted, when, to my horror, I heard my master rise and begin to run in the dark. Without thinking I chased after him. As I stumbled and called after him, I began to notice a faint visible glow within the tunnel we were in. It was this glow he pursued, this glow and, as I became increasingly aware, a vast sound, the sound of something moving; something like the sea.

The glow grew more and more distinct. It must be moonlight, I thought. We were saved! My master reached a glowing opening and vanished. When I caught up with him, we stood on the shore of a vast dark body of water. My relief was overwhelming, so overwhelming it took me several minutes to take in the strangeness of the view. We were on the shore of an enormous river, or lake, whose current was swift and terrible. The air was unimaginably foul and choking. Everything was illuminated by a faint glow, but looking heavenward, I saw no orb. I calculated the time we had spent in our explorations. It should have been daytime by now.

My master told me to send up a flare. Considering the atmosphere, I considered the risk of immolation, but I, too, had to know what shore it was we had come to.

The flare reached its zenith and disclosed an incomprehensible spectacle. The sky was hung with stalactites. What we thought was a river or lake appeared now as a vast ocean, stretching to the horizon. Yet more incomprehensible and impossible was what this ocean appeared to be. It was dark. It was liquid. Its stench gave no alternative as to its composition.

Yet, surely it was impossible! All the sewers of human civilization routed into one septic flow could not produce such a volume as this ocean! Every poop from every creature that had ever lived in Natural History could not account for such a mass. We were faced with an impossible cosmological revelation: the Earth was hollow and filled with a vast mass of odorous sewage, its waves rushing headlong to some still unknown abyss.

The arc of the flare gave us this impossible spectacle only a few seconds to consider, then came the darkness again into which to disbelieve.

In the faintness of whatever glow hung about the cavern I could not make out my master’s expression. I felt he had none. We walked like ghosts along the shore of this impossible and obscene sea, damned like wraiths in a Sheol that was more foul than anyone had ever imagined.

We walked I know not how long when my master stopped and snapped on his torch. In the distance, some hulk sat on the shore. The doctor snapped his light off and hastened toward it, pausing every few paces to illumine again. As we got closer to it, its unlikely design became more and more certain, despite its improbability. It was a boat.

When my master stepped into it, I thought I knew already his nightmarish intention. Nothing but our certain destruction could be gained by such travel. We stood on the shore of something unclean beyond imagining. How could we go further? This I plead silently with my slow reluctance to join him. He replied with his obstinate silent occupation of the prow, looking out. I acquiesced. I stepped into the boat. I pushed off. My master turned abruptly to regard me, but I dared not look at him.

I did not row, but sat there regarding my soiled trousers. We drifted, carried by the current. I looked up at a sky that was cold, hard and incalculably cruel, sealing me down here to sail on an endless sea of shit. Something deep within me rebelled. I would row back. I would somehow see the surface again. I would survive. I would report our findings. I snapped on my light. For an instant, I saw my master’s face, but so transfixed, I could but hardly recognize it. His face was wrenched with terror. It was pitiable. He looked to me, as though pleading. Was this final journey not his intention, his goal?

Suddenly, there was a knock on the underside of the boat. I was alarmed as to what we could have possibly struck. But the knock came again, and clear in its pattern. As clear as a nightmare. Something was rapping on the underside of the boat.

At this Dr. Brown stared. He looked at me. I was dumbfounded. At the third knock, he kneeled and knocked in response.

The answer came in the from of single forceful blow that stove the boat. Dr. Brown fell back. The boat began to fill rapidly with dark liquid filth. I scrambled to avoid the flooding muck. Dr. Brown stood up. I regarded him one last time. I spoke, but Dr. Brown, turned and jumped off the boat, into the dark awful mass.

I rowed. I knew not how far we were, but I rowed will all my might against the filling boat. The liquid sludge rolled toward me, lapping up my waist, my torso, my chin. I was futile, the boat began to slip under. I began to swim, straining with every stroke to keep my head above the excremental waves. I struggled to swim in this fetid nightmare. I knew not which direction. Waves of foulness slapped into my face, my eyes and mouth like an obscene insult, a rebuke of my will to live. Still I swam in this muck, swam and swam, my arms growing more and more heavy, my head dropping again and again into that vast and terrible toilet, until my arms no longer answered, my legs ceased to kick and I sank.


They say they found me when they were searching the sewers for another one of the victims of the killer known as the Stile. When they found me my flesh reeked so badly they were sure I was a corpse. The doctors evacuated the wing I was hospitalized in because of the outbreaks of disease around me.

The doctors say I am incurable, which is to say they cannot stand to be near me. Even the other lepers on this island shun me and flee from my stench. They have placed me on a tiny atoll where no wind stirs.

I try and live by my master's words, but my body disgusts me. I cannot help but think that the best part of me, the pure and holy part, my soul, was somehow squeezed out of me on that ocean of indescribable filth.

I have reported the details of our misadventure here and elsewhere in complete and truthful detail. Every authority insists that Hesselius’ orders were followed to the letter: the crypts were dynamited and the chapel filled with rock and sand and sealed. They suggest our vision at most represents some phantasmal re-imagining of an ill-considered descent into a gaseous fissure filled with tar or mud springs, our perceptions disordered by hypoxia into a fantasy land organized around our scatological obsessions. My condition they attribute to some unknown and aggravated eczema from the sewers. I am beyond disappointment: from such an obscene and impossible revelation there is nothing to report and nothing can be concluded.

And what we saw, what we experience, what I have written is as real as my rotting flesh, the worms of my own breath.

I put my head to the seemingly solid ground: and yet it moves.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Unmentionable, Part III

After such persecution and ill-treatment it was good to be received again by a fellow man of science and friend in knowledge. At his very comfortable lodgings, Dr. Hesselius gave us the kindest and most refreshing reception and respite from our investigations: in food, in drink, but above all, in the hospitality of his open and commodious mind.

After dinner, my master could but hardly resist unwrapping some specimens of note for Hesselius’ revelation. This my master did with a childish and pure enthusiasm for sharing his holdings.

Upon a sheet of brilliant damask my master rolled out seven uneven obsidian plugs.

“These are the ancient crustings of the minotaur. Scraped, they say from the sides of the labyrinth by Theseus himself and worn smooth by the hands that pass it to us from myth into history.”

Hesselius smiled indulgently at the preface, but noted with interest the skipping spin of the compass he placed next to it.

My master next rolled out a dusky brass cylinder, from whose ancient cloth sand yet slid. I knew this one well, for it was one of the first mysteries he had disclosed to me.
Hesselius knew it, too. “Ha,” he cried in recognition. “The egesta of the yellow sphinx. Once a rarity, now hocked at stalls throughout the Levant.”

“Mostly poor fakes, made from fool’s gold, wax, hair and bismuth,” replied my master, “this one has the mesmeric properties Mon-Raban describes.”

As though in rebut, my master skipped over the Etiudros Alberti and the "sweet smelling stone" of Rhazes and hastened to his greatest prize, which sat recessed in the blue velvet of a jewelry box, beneath the flip of its twin locks.

“The uric crystal of the Blue Naga!” announced Hesselius, “This one is enormous.”

“Yes, exactly. I had heard of an enormous eel being captured from the Mekong. For weeks there had been no fish; when this titanic eel was captured, it was thought to be the cause. It was a scaled a deep blue that shone like metal. The king ordered it slaughtered to replace the missing fish. Its flesh filled every pot in the kingdom and more. They fashioned armor and roofs and tiles and even clothes and combs from its scales.”

“By the time I reached port, there were unclear reports of some total catastrophe befalling the kingdom. Some said earthquake; others said darker, less reasonable things. But the entire kingdom had been wiped out overnight. In fact, by the time I made it up river, there was nothing at all to be seen: the whole city had been wiped flat into the mud. Not a thing lived.”

“However, coming ashore, in a trench of sucking mud where the palace should have been, I found an enormous deposit of this crystallized acid, stretching as long as a field. Excreted from what, none has dared say.”

“Incredible, my dear Norman, incredible and most praiseworthy. You have done rare and signal work in a field none have dared to tread, no matter how carefully. From such a collection, a remarkable new science could yet emerge –like a phoenix.”

“Ha! Hesselius. Yes, that is my intention. As you well know, the phoenix is no creature, but a riddle. And I believed I have solved it.”

At this Hesselius smiled kindly and bade my master sit with him. But my master was too excited. Hesselius reclined alone, over his glass.

“You, Magus Hesselius, know the object of all science and philosophy.”

Hesselius was silent.

“The Great Work,” hissed my master “the philosopher’s stone. These are just words, secret words we use to cover the true phenomenon. Transformation.”

“Transformation of what is without to within, to without. The phoenix from the ashes indeed. The secret of all life, the universe. And why has it eluded us, Hesselius? Because of shame! Because we have turned out backs on it, it is obvious, too obvious!”

Hesselius began to shake is his head demurringly, “My friend, my friend...”

“It is true! I have grasped it, felt it with my fingers, smelt it. Man seeks truth eternally, but in reality he flings it from himself.”

I could not follow all that was said. My master was wild and expansive in his gestures.

Hesselius silent and unmoving.

“Diogenes did his all his business in public. This is his lamp at daytime. This is the last taboo, the greatest, most primary, most buried treasure.”

“Accept it, Hesselius, the truth is already inside of you, inside all of us. Every legend of every nation has spoken of it, how we were fashioned from clay, of how the prideful, willful one was expelled, of how the gods themselves were devoured by time –only to be excreted. The ritual of the phoenix has been before us, before we had names for anything, but we refuse to name it, to speak of it.”

“Norman, Norman, the truth is not so simple. A taboo is not a proof of anything. Wisdom is not merely the reverse of common folly or practice, or simple perversion would be genius. What is high and low cannot be reconciled, transposed or made equal. Were all things equal any asshole would be as a just man.

“Don’t be ashamed Martin! We men of science cannot spare it! It is the source of all power. Defiance. Mastery. Will. It is the key of creation and destruction. It is what makes us human and animal -and would make us a god if we dared grasp it. All fruits were forbidden man, save one, so that he might not recognize himself a creator.”

“Please don’t ask me, Norman. I shall not. I cannot. I’ve seen it. I’ll not die a cheerful man for it, in this life or the next for having seen it.”

“But you know what it would mean. The dead poop of something not dead, but undead. The impossible poo. The soul of the unsouled. It is logical that if the creature drinks blood there must be some excreta.”

“Evil leaves a stain. A stain that seeps to the core of the earth. Don’t go chasing that stain, Norman. It’s just as deadly and as evil. The Comte is vanquished, of that I am sure. But it is still a terrible place that I would not go for any reason.”

“Hesselius, you must show me! You know the Comte’s practices. The secret was his as well. You must have seen it.”

“I did what was necessary and departed. No pillar of salt am I.”

“Shame and superstition from a man of science!”

“Fear, call it what you will. But not without reason. The sort of reason that keeps a man alive and sane and indoors on a bad night. You want to look into an abyss, Norman, but not every secret holds knowledge. Some riddles, like the sphinx, offer only destruction as an answer.”

“This would be the poo of poos, the great work, the unnamable offspring, the baphomet. I must have it, Hesselius. Where others have seen just muck and dross I have seen the trails of a great secret. And I will have that secret, Hesselius. All this, all this…” said my master spreading himself wide to encompass his life’s work.

“My God, can’t you understand Norman? There’s no knowledge here, no secret no mystery, just Scheiße, merde, shit, Norman, you’re just collecting shit!”

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Unmentionable, Part II

“The werewolf’s …leavings tell us how much humanity still resides in the creature. This is simple to determine, for we just inspect the evidence and see if the werewolf still wipes its ablutions like a human being or if it… um, cleanses itself as in the manner of a dog or a wolf does, my lady,” concluded Dr. Brown. The princess, for her part, maintained a consistent, if somewhat colorless composure, which was in stark contrast to the queen’s vivid coloring. The king had found some invisible, yet deeply compelling object to look at in the upper right corner of the room and pinned all of his attention and hopes upon it.

“And your conclusion?” growled the queen.

“Well, sometimes the prince does …and sometimes he doesn’t,” coughed Brown.

“You are saying then, that my son, the prince, is no more”

“Well, no, your highness. Your son has an intermediate condition as you can clearly see.”

The queen did not condescend to admit the doctor’s exhibit into the royal field of vision.

“The process of changing from a man to a wolf does many things to an individual, but worst of all, to the digestive system, which is stretched and compressed and twisted as the body changes and one’s humanity is lost. The result is these twisty poops that you have been finding all over the palace. But the fact of these changes proves that, at some level, your son is still a man, and the prince still lives.”

“What you are saying is unacceptable. These, these …actions are incompatible with our son the prince. They are the foulings of a wild beast. We will suffer it no more.”

“But Madam, your highness, you must understand me, your son the prince is ill, but he lives, he lives and walks, sometimes on two legs, sometimes on four for he goes his business like a man and sometimes in a ...more natural fashion.”

“No, Doctor, he does not. It is obvious to me that our son, the Prince was killed by a wolf and this same wolf has continued its baleful and soiling presence to this day. It shall be tolerated no longer.”

“But if your majesty would just look at the considerable evidence…”

“That, we shall not do. We fail to see what should be gained by such a prospect.”

“But your madam highness, this is not a matter for prejudice, this is science

“Really, Doctor? And what high science emerges comes to enlighten from your fervid and shameless dung picking? For weeks we have host your mania in the hopes you might bring us the relief we so justly deserve, providing you every convenience and power of the crown. Yet you have used this power to direct every hand, serf and soldier alike picking up refuse. Not only the leavings of beasts, but also the offal of rats, even the droppings of flies you requested be kept and hoarded for your indecent inspection to add to your obscene minging horde of ill-cherished ordure. And what has it availed us? Nothing but the ill tidings of a son already dead.

“And you, Doctor. What does it possibly avail you to shuttle about the countryside with your unmentionable menagerie of awfulness, collecting the countless excreta of creation, retaining what Nature and Godliness compels us to eject? What possible sublime knowledge can come from porting about such an indecent manifest of animal ejecta?”

“Well, only some of it” demurred Dr. Brown, “I mean, a lot of it is mine.”

We were allowed to keep our specimens, but with more than an inference of ill grace on the part of our formerly compliant porters. The master worried that some particular loafs of note might have been omitted, but we were in no position to sit anywhere upon the seat of this throne much longer. The doctor himself was in haste to leave before the proclamation authorizing the hunt went into effect.

Once we were underway, but quite before we left the kingdom, he made clear his judgment to me, and to the departing countryside.

“It’s nothing more than bloody murder,” he pronounced, “and for the weakest of weakness, vanity and shame.” “People think me a brown-stained mad man, but no villain am I. I am a scientist, a man of truth. That is what I unflinchingly collect. To look inside oneself, is to see that one is full of poop. If you cannot see this, what other truth can you see? Blind without, blind within and murder comes easily. A mother murders her son.”

“If they only understood.”

“Understanding is present. The courage is lacking. Miserable hypocrites all. You see, this kind of lycanthropy is invariably hereditary.”

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Unmentionable, Part I

Thee, bounteous goddess Cloacine,
To temples why do we confine?
Forbid in open air to breathe,
Why are thine altars fix'd beneath?
Swift, "A Panegyrick on the Dean"

Oh! si au lieu d'être un enfer, l'univers n'avait été qu'un céleste anus immense

If you will steel yourself and hold and regard these foul and redolent pages, I will deposit upon them the most forbidden of secrets, beyond the taboo of taboos. My master dealt in the most forbidden of forbidden things, of which no one has spoken or written, without the threat worse than death, without the ultimate sanction, that is, without complete and unanswerable ridicule. He dared to know more than any, beyond good, evil and simple shame. It is in his name and the name of his shameless discovery that I continue to live and bear witness to his unabashed science and so: I have done my duty.

You might have thought the old man was sleeping, reposed as he was in a chair, eyes closed, hands folded but slack, now upturned –but this was how my master waited, in deep meditation, focused and unperturbed. I, too, tried to focus myself, on the moment, on his soft breaths, but to my mind came recurrently the cause of our vigil and my anxieties as to its result, hopes worrisome in their disappointment, but dreadful in their confirmation.

Unable to focus my mind, I tried simply to doze. I was exhausted, for we had come far and long to attend a series of fruitless vigils like this one. Despite my fatigue and repeated disappointment, I found myself as preoccupied as ever, stimulated and poisoned with unleavened dread. Out there, in the cold and the wet, the unholy hunt continued, muddy feet clodding up hills and down ravines, searching for the mark, the spoor, the remains of something wholly unfamiliar and unnatural.

It was already dark again when the distant mingled dull pack of voices and barks announced the villagers’ return. Yet they grew quiet as they grew near. The heavy door swung open and they crowded in: quietly. I was sure they had found something. Their eyes all held the same shy dread, the same need and reluctance. So deep was my master’s meditation at this point that I had to make some effort to wake him. He came around slowly, gathering himself behind his spectacles. The leader of the party approached him. His cold soiled hands held something in a dark wet cloth, which he placed on the table like a pleading question.

My master looked at it and opened the cloth. In its center was a soft dark irregular mass. My master regarded it. I provided him with a knife. He cut into it, spread it upon the cloth. He brought it close and touched it.

“Herr Doktor?…” asked the leader of the party.

“Yes,” replied my master “this is it. This is the stool of the creature. You can tell from its lumpy, unrefined, barely digested quality. The digestive system of Victor’s creature is a patchwork plumbing of different tubes culled from the gullets of a dozen different dead men. Even if the wretched abomination should be so lucky as to find nourishment of any kind that agrees with him, his system rarely finds concord with itself.”

“All of the creatures humors end up here. Victor may be a genius, but he’s a very poor plumber. There is bile, and chyme and pus. Every misery his creation suffers is recorded here, probably his sniffled tears and snot as well. You see, it’s mainly a mass of nettles.”

It was indeed mainly a dead black clod corded with ill-digested nettles. Poking through the grave of its stool were also many broken thorns, chewed leaves, a mashed bird’s nest, mashed bird, ashes, tiny stones, some impacted gum, tadpoles, small coins, broken keys, a die-cast toy car, a human finger, a carrot, a chewed up strawberry scented eraser, sushi magnets, an unopened can of beans, a Rand McNally road map and the remains of a Hormel meal from the dollar store. Its smell was unimaginable: it burned they eyes and hurt one’s throat. It was the smell of dead things rotting inside a rotting dead thing made of rotting dead things. It was the breath of unimaginable compost and loneliness from the anus of a creature that had no soul.

“It’s dry. Too dry,” concluded Dr. Brown, “it cannot have had water for a day or two now. We have driven the creature away from the streams and wells. Up into the mountains, I think.” With this, my master proceeded to scrape the inhuman black tar of the creature’s stain from his fingers.

“We are forever in your debt, Herr Doktor,” bowed the leader, “your learning is immense.” “Tomorrow then, the mountains?” he asked.

“I do not think so. The poor wretch isn’t eating much. It could be weeks before it has another movement.” Brown demurred, wiping his fingers with turpentine.

The leader of the villagers waited a respectful beat. “Yes, of course, Herr Doktor Doktor,” he said respectfully “you have taught us so much. We know what to look for, how to track and identify the creature’s scat.” “Tell us now,” he added “how we can stop the creature.” To this every manly shoulder in the room nodded assent.

With a delicacy beyond his profession, Brown folded the cloth back over the sample with a forceps. He slid it gingerly into a laboratory jar and sealed it with the ritual focus of an ancient Aegyptian attending to the emollients of his Pharaoh. The jar he slipped into the ready steel sleeve I had prepared for him, which he then sealed himself.

Brown then looked up at the village’s leader as though only now considering his question, the answer for which every weary frame in the room had hunted for days in the cold and wet, the answer that they felt would let them at last be safe again. My master’s eyes were suddenly wholly innocent and apologetic, his face soft and open, with a weak pleading smile like the proprietor of a general store.

“My dear fellow, why –well, I don’t really know.”

“I don’t know. I have no idea. Perhaps Victor knows. You could write him”

“You don’t know?” exclaimed the leader incredulously. “But you help can us? Help us to find a way? To kill or capture it?”

“Well, I wish, I would love to help, but I really don’t think so, because I really don’t know anything about that,” said Brown, apologetically.

“It’s really outside my field of specialty, my interest”

“And what,” puzzled the leader “exactly is your interest?”

“Well, I’m really only interested in the creatures’ poop,” he coughed.

My master waved the jar around gaily to indicate his trophy. The villagers blinked audibly.

“And all your equipment, all these books, all these jars?” started the leader.

“It’s all poop. An incredible collection. A library, really. My humble thanks are to you, to all of you…”

“But you are a doctor, a scientist”

“I am a doctor of Scatology. A scatologist, a field which I, myself, have invented and pioneered…”

It was in our dark and hurried flight from that place that I once again felt sympathy for Victor Frankenstein’s unfortunate creature: to be hounded and chased by stupid peasants and their torches, willful in their ignorance, obstinate in their lack of wonder, limited in their tolerance and range of interests.

“They have my every sympathy,” said my master, sincerely. I prepared another compress for his head. “They have simple lives, for which simple concepts and a simple truth suffices. Farmers are not brave people. If only they had the courage to look farther and appreciate the wonder they leave behind. But they are afraid, afraid to look, afraid to dare, to know, to touch and be sullied.”

“They fear the creature,” I said.

“They fear the creature’s stool. They fear their own stool. Even though they work with soil and manure, the great mystery eludes them. They think it is mere shit. They do not relish or realize its true treasure, or the knowledge it holds.”

I shirked from a slight drizzle. Mastering myself, I leaned back into the stream where my master spoke, unperturbed by the downpour.

“The history of the world,” he intoned ”is the progress of cowardice, of repeated attempts to cleanse ourselves, to rid and deny ourselves of our own creations. To hide it in crèches or pits. Latrines and outhouses. To send it sailing away in our own engineered Styx from our cities. To flush it away and forget. When, all this time, it is a part of us, it is our creation. It lives within us and after us. It is not the new Prometheus’ unnatural Adam they fear. It is his inevitable offspring that makes him fearful. His poop.”

The onslaught abated and the boards above our heads creaked.

“If the villagers could accept his poop, their own poop, their fear would be extinguished. The creature is harmless, lost and lonely. It is the idea of his poop, out there in the wild, somewhere between life and death, the creation of our creation –the poop of our poop, if you will, that terrifies them, his lonely, broken rain-filled poops. I have taught them all they need to know. If they can look at the creatures’ poop and their own poop, there would be nothing to fear and their dark heavy nightmare would be pinched off in the end.”

“I understand, master,” I said.

“Master,” I inquired, “how much longer will we continue to hide in the bottom of this outhouse?”

“Oh, a little while longer.”